Cultural leaders convene in Joburg for the inaugural Yale Directors Forum

Charlotte Ashamu, director of International Programs Yale institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. | Supplied

Charlotte Ashamu, director of International Programs Yale institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. | Supplied

Published Feb 7, 2024


Distinguished leaders from across Africa and the world have touched down in South Africa for inaugural Yale Directors Forum set run from February 6-9 at the Radisson Red Hotel in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

This groundbreaking project was started in 2013 by the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) with the goal of assisting museums and other cultural organisations all throughout the African continent.

The Star spoke with Charlotte Ashamu, director of International Programs Yale institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage who explained the essence of the summit revealing that it is meant to connect the leaders from different parts of the world.

Ashamu is a distinguished creative economy specialist with a rich background in pivotal roles at esteemed organisations such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

“This event is the first local gathering with cultural leaders from across the continent as well as around the world. We are brought here to be part of the fellowship programme which is designed for leaders of museums and cultural museums with a focus on the African continent. This is one component of our fellowship programme that enables participants to know each other, to share knowledge, to participate in site visits in Johannesburg and also connect with one another,” said Ashamu.

Asked why they had their inaugural convention in South Africa, she said their aim was to start in a city situated in Africa before going to other countries.

“We wanted to begin this journey in an African city because our focus is building vibrant cultural institutions in Africa. We wanted to start on the continent before we went anywhere else.”

She also explained the essence of developing culture highlighting that they want to transmit the value of culture to future generations. “In the work that we do we preserve cultural heritage by developing collections of cultural artifacts which includes important artworks from historical objects. We do that because we have value in our cultures in our society. And we want to preserve that value. We want to transmit that value to future generations.”

This pioneering endeavour is set to establish a dynamic network of executive leaders, educational programmes, and strategic partnerships with universities and international organisations.

The primary goal is to cultivate a new generation of skilled practitioners in the culture and heritage sector.

Ashamu is spearheading efforts to expand the institute's public outreach and international activities to also serve global leaders who are dedicated to preserving and interpreting cultural heritage for present and future generations.

She also explained that the crucial component of this initiative is the launch of the Yale Directors Forum, a prestigious fellowship programme tailored to visionary leaders of museums, cultural centres, libraries, archives, and heritage sites, all of which play an integral role in preserving cultural heritage for present and future generations.

The 18-month programme offers a participant-centred learning journey featuring interactions with leading experts at Yale and across the globe, personalised executive coaching, and advisory services centred on the preservation and care of collections.

In a historic first cohort, IPCH has selected 17 fellows hailing from 12 countries in Africa.

This diverse group includes esteemed individuals such as Wanjiru Koinange, an award-winning writer and restorer of libraries from Kenya; Ghana’s Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, a multidisciplinary artist and cultural activist; and Makhosi Mahlangu, a celebrated chef, food entrepreneur, and specialist in indigenous foods from Zimbabwe.

Lekgetho Makola, chief executive officer at Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria shared: “I am honoured and delighted to be one of the Yale Directors Forum Fellows and to be a part of this impactful programme within the art and culture industry. I’m also excited to build on relations and welcome other fellows from various countries.”

The Star